• Colour Me Pop presents Harvey Williams + Julian Henry, Saturday, 29 August, 2009

    19 août 2009, 15h36m

    Colour Me Pop Presents...

    Saturday, 29 August @ The Betsey Trotwood (upstairs), [Farringdon Tube], 8pm

    Hello from London! We are now firmly situated in this great city and are ready to put on a show. Who is it, you ask? Why it's none other than the utterly gorgeous, completely spellbinding duo of:

    Harvey Williams (Another Sunny Day) and Julian Henry (The Hit Parade)!

    Living in Chicago, I couldn't even dream of seeing either of these dazzling singer-songwriters because they were just too far away. Records would have to do. But in June, I had the honour of traveling to Oxford to see them perform together. I hadn't smiled so much for so long. Hearing songs such as 'You Didn't Love Me Then' and 'Horseriding' simply floored me. I also videoed 'You Should All Be Murdered'. Harvey and Julian switched between playing each other's songs and that's what they'll be doing at the dear old Betsey!

    Can you believe they have agreed to play a show for us? I barely can! In addition to the magnificence of these two, we and other pop fanatics will be playing tunes before and afterwards. This gig also doubles as my birthday celebration so please come out, grin to the point of bursting when you hear 'The Sun Shines in Gerrard's Cross', have a dance with us, and feel lighter than air as you skip your way home that night.

    P.S. The GLORIOUS Another Sunny Day compilation 'London Weekend' [look at that track list!] has just been rereleased by Cherry Red on 17 August. Harvey will have some copies to sell at the gig. You've just got to get one!

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  • Clinic, Monday, May 12, 2008 (7pm), Chicago, Empty Bottle

    13 mai 2008, 21h54m

    Mon 12 May – Clinic, Shearwater

    I always forget how brilliant Clinic are as they fall outside of my insular indie-pop bubble. But what kind of scene do Clinic fit into? Just what kind of music fan likes Clinic? I don’t think I can answer those questions because what makes Clinic so intriguing is their unusual sound that is totally and completely their own.

    You’ll believe me when I say their music is sexy, right? Ok, ok, who would think that four indistinct looking lads from Liverpool creeping towards middle age could create songs so perfectly fit for dim lighting, wandering hands, and risky possibilities? But they do. They really do. Listen to the song The Equaliser to understand the dirty mood that Clinic creates.

    It could be in the singer’s way of singing through clenched teeth which always makes him sound like he’s panting and in heat (see their song Porno which is clear proof of his way with breath!). Or it could be down to the bassist who thumps his strings so hard you can feel your heart pumping out of your chest and your bits throb. But then you look over to the guitarist whose nimble fingers are working all over one of his many guitar’s fretboards to pull out starry, twinkly, hazy sounds that recall all the best in bittersweet heartbreak noise (see: The Field Mice, Broadcast, The Airfields). And did you feel the bass drum kick and the hi-hat smash? The drummer’s nearly as fierce as Stephen Morris of New Order.

    We got two sets at this show. The first set was songs off their new album Do It!. It was classic Clinic, but it lacked the tension-filled urgency that a lot of my favorite songs of theirs have.

    They came back out for a second set to play a mix of other songs. We got Country Mile, Kimberley, Monkey on Your Back (hotttttttttttttt! LOVE Ade’s frantic guitar playing.), and Walking With Thee (to which the crowd went suitably mental).

    And to cap it all off, we got an encore of Pet Eunuch in which the floor shook as we all flailed about. The band really do know how to build up to a rapturous climax.

    So today I sit here listening to all the Clinic music I own. Remind me to pick them up every now and again, would you?
  • Tilly and the Wall, Tuesday, March 25, 2008, Chicago, Subterranean

    31 mars 2008, 20h32m

    Tue 25 Mar – Tilly and the Wall, Capgun Coup
    Thank goodness for balloons. Tilly and the Wall threw out fistfuls of balloons to the all-ages crowd and we promptly blew them up and tossed them about. It helped dissipate the tension caused by quite a few obnoxious drunk teenagers with flasks that had been pushing about the front of the crowd.

    Tilly, of course, saved the day and brought a rainbow to the dark skies. Possibly the world's most attractive band, they had a bassist/guitarist and a drummer with them this time to add even more percussive and dance elements to their songs.

    I had heard their new single, Beat Control, prior to the gig and I was slightly unimpressed. I was worried that they were going in a soulless electro hipster direction. I think this band creates such a sense of community with their songs and with their obvious love for one another and I thought that all may be going by the wayside.

    But they played 3 or 4 new songs in addition to their new single and I am happy to report that they are classic Tilly. Some of the new songs have a sort of power pop and new wave feel to them, but sung by Neely and Kianna, they are injected with a rush of love.

    With Jamie in her bright green tutu, Neely in a black prom dress, and Kianna in what can only be described as a Carmen Miranda-esque dress and headpiece, the band played nearly all of my favorite songs of theirs: Nights Of The Living Dead (which I think is their manifesto), Bad Education, Fell Down The Stairs, and Urgency. The very last song of their encore was Rainbows in the Dark and what a perfect way to end.

    After surviving numerous pushes and hands to my chest, ribs, and the remnants of a drink in my face from kids released from their parents’ grip for one night, only Tilly and the Wall could have made me stay to the end and truly have a brilliant time.
  • Secret Shine, Friday, March 21, 2008, Chicago, The Note

    26 mars 2008, 21h57m

    Fri 21 Mar – Secret Shine, Star, Tears Run Rings, Hostage Juliet
    When this gig was announced just a month or two ago in the throes of a hellish winter, I was giddy with excitement. Now, I don’t profess to have an extensive knowledge of the back catalogue of Secret Shine, but what I do know is that they were on the almighty Sarah Records back in the day. And I have fallen deeply in love with more and more Sarah Records bands over the years.

    I think that the interest in fuzzy, noisy, hazy shoegaze (and related noise pop) is rising today. There are a lot of chancers and mediocrity out there, but there is also some utter brilliance (see: The Pains of Being Pure At Heart and The Airfields). I do love to wallow in nostalgia so why not bring back a band that was layering love songs under feedback in the early 90s?

    Secret Shine took the stage looking as what I imagined they did in the early 90s! Fresh-faced and sprightly, they carried the confident demeanor of a band who had been working together for many years. Opening with Oblivion, you would have no idea that the band had been together for nearly two decades (though with a considerable break in the late 90s-early 00s). You know how some bands reform in their more mature years and their songs have suddenly gotten quieter, the sounds simpler, often more acoustic, and the subject matter safer? Not Secret Shine. They sounded gloriously loud and lush live as they did on records from recent and older memory.

    They still have those short, sensual song names that combine the best in wordplay and tactility. We heard Honey Sweet and Loveblind. Adored came soaring down on a cloud from heaven. Dean and Kathryn’s combined singing voices on every song was like lovers singing their lives to us.

    This is the sort of music that makes butterflies flutter inside you. You want to catch the eye of someone pretty across the room, smile and blush. I beamed at Scott, who played guitar, and I think it caught on. It’s tragic that there were only a handful of people in this perfect venue to witness this fantastic show, one that brought sunshine to snow-covered, frigid Chicago on a cold Friday evening.
  • The Magnetic Fields, Friday, March 14, 2008 (7pm), Chicago, Old Town School of Folk…

    25 mars 2008, 22h19m

    Fri 14 Mar – The Magnetic FieldsMagnetic Fields

    It’s been nearly four years since The Magnetic Fields graced our fair city with their presence. While I’m not quite taken with their new album, Distortion, a Magnetic Fields gig is special, and I was still quite excited for the first of their six(!) shows in Chicago.

    Adding to my excitement was knowing that Shirley Simms, she of many of my favorite 69 Love Songs, would be along for these shows. I think she has one of the most intriguing voices in pop music and I couldn’t wait to see how it would sound live.

    The Old Town School of Folk Music is ideal for the Magnetic Fields as every instrument is mic’ed to perfection and we can hear every sigh and every song fade out. I only wish more bands I liked would play here, so dedicated to the art of sound it is!

    Claudia Gonson took her role as band ringleader and led us off with California Girls. Now, I said I’m not exactly a fan of the latest album, but with Shirley on lead vocals, I was hooked. And then they followed that up with Come Back From San Francisco (it’s my favorite American city and I can imagine being heartbroken if someone I loved moved there) and All My Little Words (I’d last seen the band with my dear friend Rick, who requested this song to Claudia, and they played it at the next gig we saw together. Rick is also from North Carolina!). I blinked back tears.

    Shirley’s wonderfully androgynous singing voice charmed me to new song Xavier Says and it was a thrill to finally hear her voice sing along with Stephin to Papa Was a Rodeo as she voiced the original. Simply gorgeous.

    Another highlight was the entire band shouting out the wordy intro to Too Drunk to Dream: “sober, life is a prison; shit-faced, it is a blessing.” Too true.

    I had never heard one of my favorite songs live before – Smoke and Mirrors – and I got shivers hearing it live, though it didn’t have the shadowy synths surrounding it like it does on record. Stephin’s voice is just smoky enough. And for one of the encores, Claudia sang Take Ecstasy With Me. I couldn’t believe it. I nearly expected Susan Anway to come out of the curtains to sing it. What a fantastic mix of old and new songs, all done to perfection, so crisp, so full of beauty and meaning.

    After it ended, I was heavy-hearted that I’d had to sell my ticket for Saturday’s gig as I was leaving on a jet plane. Even if they played the same songs, a Magnetic Fields gig is a rare jewel to treasure repeatedly.
  • Sondre Lerche, Tuesday, November 20, 2007, Chicago, Park West

    21 nov. 2007, 20h52m

    Tue 20 Nov – Sondre Lerche
    So I went to see the wondrous Sondre Lerche last night. I've never really listened to him because, truth be told, I have a hard time just sitting around listening to singer-songwriters. Seeing them live, though, is a different story.

    I knew he was bloody gorgeous and I had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of him playing a free in-store at the Amoeba Records in Hollywood a few weeks ago. His songs were pleasant enough, but what really got me were his stories, anecdotes, and conversation between the songs. This chatter took up as much time as did his songs, which I am not complaining about! When I saw he'd be playing Chicago this week, I booked tickets immediately.

    He came out onstage and everyone whooped it up for him. It was just him and his guitar. I have no idea what he all played throughout the night. My partner has one album (Two Way Monologue) which I have just listened to and it is ok. I have one favorite song that I heard him perform both in Hollywood and last night in Chicago. If I sing it for you, maybe you can tell me what it is.

    The best part of the evening was unequivocally his talk in between his songs. His confidence and storytelling makes you feel like you are on the BEST first date EVER! Ridiculously charming, natural, and brimming with enthusiasm, he told us about his bleeding fingers and how manly the blood on his guitar made him look, how Fergie really knows how to come up with a good metaphor ("I miss you like a child misses its blanket"), and about the thrill of meeting the cast of the Office (U.S.) show recently.

    His stories made me laugh so hard that I started videoing them. I videoed one song but turned the camera on its side so I can't post that without making you crane your neck (if someone knows how I can rotate it, let me know). But I've got a few videos of him charming our pants off here. Aw.

    Here he discusses covering Madonna's "Take a Bow," written by Babyface ("a funny name for a guy"), the Duper Sessions, and his favorite singer-songwriter, Elvis Costello, whose song he covers next.

    Here he discusses the art of conversing with the audience. A girl next to me also asks to have a song dedicated to her friend, Minnette, whose birthday it was. The "bloody mistress" joke is brought up again after being born on this night. I am LAFFIN'. Also, Sondre does some good hand-on-hip posing. YUM.

    Here Sondre introduces his last song and pimps his merchandise, including the t-shirt he designed. Aww.
  • The Incomparable Jens Lekman, Friday, November 2, 2007, Chicago, Logan Square…

    6 nov. 2007, 23h20m

    Fri 2 Nov – Jens Lekman, Dave Fischoff, Viktor Sjöberg

    Oh, Jens. Only you could pull me out of my enclave on a cold, cold night after I’ve spent the entire day on an airplane. And you can scold me for doubting how your intimacy would translate to a venue the shape of a high school gymnasium. You pulled it off and, dare I say, it was the most glorious show I’ve ever seen you do.

    I was to the left side of the stage when a burly bouncer told us all to back up as the band were coming through. And they did so in a perfect line of heavenly white and smiles. My excitement woke me up.

    Taking the stage in matching white patent lace-up shoes, various white smock tops and dresses and button down shirts, and appliquéd birds, it was Jens and the girls (ok, and Viktor Sjöberg fiddling on a laptop occasionally over there in the corner) here to slay us all. Even though I miss those cozy shows with Jens and two or three others singing softly to us, with the addition of strings and brass, his songs are given the glorious treatment they deserve live.

    He played many songs off the new “album” (I hesitate to call it an album as his full-lengths are always compilations of songs, and with “…Kortedala” I had heard a number of the songs in different incarnations previously). “The Opposite of Hallelujah” sounded magnificent. His rambling intro to “Nina, I Can be Your Boyfriend” made everyone collapse in giggles. The way “It Was a Strange Time in My Life” bled into “Black Cab” caused us all to jump in glee. He didn’t kill the party this time, oh no.

    There was a funny moment after the second or third song where Jens told us about the bad ending he’d had to the night before in Cleveland. Apparently some hipster dude had hurt his feelings with misplaced words! Poor Jens had a fitful night’s sleep, but woke up with the sound of Billy Corgan’s voice in his head, “We’ll crucify the insincere tonight…” And with that, Jens didslay the insincere with his songs this night.

    In addition to a crisp, uniformed front, the band treated us to a few choreographed moves. It was early in the set that a soul breakdown came on through the laptop in the middle of a song, and Jens and the band beckoned at the audience in a come hither fashion. Ooh. Then during “Sipping On The Sweet Nectar", the music stopped, a programmed beat came in, and the entire band put their instruments down to flail about onstage as if they were airplanes. How wonderfully appropriate! How I wanted to join them!

    The Cold Swedish Winter” made the sold out crowd go utterly quiet. I struggled to keep my eyes from spilling over. Who doesn’t want someone to hold through the cold winter nights? And in “Maple Leaves,” you’ve got to wonder just who is denying Jens.

    I think the band played two encores. It finally came down to just Jens and his guitar (reminiscent of the edge-of-the-stage serenades of yore by him and his ukulele). The last song he played was “Pocketful of Money;” certainly not one of my favorite songs. But the audience sang the deep voice sampled on the song’s record, and it became a call-and-response between us and him, going on and on. When it finished, Jens told us that he’d said to Washington, DC that their rendition was the best, but he confirmed that we had now ousted them!

    Viktor took to his laptop after Jens left, and a few people stayed around to dance and see what our darling Swede was up to. He graciously signed loads of posters and took even more pictures, newly bedecked in a grey suit and black scarf. Apparently he even capped off the night with some more strumming and singing at somebody’s house which, of course, I am sorry to have missed, but I am grateful for every experience I have with Mr. Lekman.
  • The Raveonettes, Friday, October 19, 2007, Chicago, Empty Bottle

    23 oct. 2007, 21h44m

    Fri 19 Oct – The Raveonettes, Gliss, Nicole Atkins & The Sea
    It’s been a few years since I last saw The Raveonettes. They've downgraded in venue size since then, now playing at the Empty Bottle as opposed to the Metro. But I believe that a cozier venue suits their sound and vision much better. The initial hype of when they first debuted internationally over four years ago was due largely to their unique aesthetic, informed by 50s rock and roll, sassy, soulful 60s girl groups, and stark black and white imagery. This hype has died down, but they still strictly adhere to their aesthetic and continue to produce gorgeous, sensual songs without having to live up to anyone’s expectations but their own.

    Sune and Sharin came out looking tall, dark, and handsome as always. They were accompanied by only one other musician this time: A beautiful Euro-model type of woman who played drums standing up and pushed buttons for the song's programmed beats.

    They started out with “Remember,” making the audience swoon (or in the case of the greasy-haired drunk who pushed in front of us, pump his fist in the air and pogo). I just love the way Sharin and Sune harmonize (though that word somehow seems wrong for what they do). Sharin sings a third or a fifth above Sune…always? I think what they must do is a fairly simple musical trick, but it’s just so distinctly them.

    I think their album “The Chain Gang of Love” is probably their most fully realized album, and their set list most heavily contained songs off of it. “That Great Love Sound” is such a brilliant, squalling, whirlwind of sound. It can’t help but make you giddy. But “Love in a Trashcan” is just as ridiculously infectious and overwhelming.

    They played one or two new songs which sounded no different to any of their other songs and, to me, that’s a good thing. They even did a Stereolab cover: “French Disko!” Even though I think there are better Stereolab songs for them to cover, they appropriately Raveonettes’d it up!
  • The Go! Team, Saturday, October 13, 2007, Chicago, Double Door

    15 oct. 2007, 21h57m

    Sat 13 Oct – The Go! Team, The Cool Kids
    It’s been over two years since The Go! Team last graced our shores with their brilliant combination of cheerleader chants, double dutch melodies, and firecracker pop, and Chicago was in dire need of a shake up in vivid colors.

    After the not terrible opening act (a rarity in Chicago), The Cool Kids, got everyone in a Saturday night party mood, The Go! Team bounded onto the stage. Ninja, the main singer, is undoubtedly the star of the show. Tonight she was wearing a pink jumpsuit, Rainbow Brite striped socks, and silver trainers! But the band are no wallflowers. Every single one of them attack their instruments and refuse to stand still. Well, really, how could you?

    Their opening statement was “The Power is On” and it was on. The energy in the room was ridiculously high. Already steaming from the previous act, the temperature got hotter yet people danced more. Incredible!

    It wasn’t until four songs into their set that they played a song off their new album, “Proof of Youth.” This was understandable because their new album isn’t as crackling and dynamic as the first one for me. But you know what? Live those songs became firecrackers. They were ferocious and didn’t let the mood down once, even when the band had to sort of chill out with “slower” numbers like “Everyone’s a VIP to Someone.”

    As a feminist, The Go! Team are like the ideal band to me. Three boys, three girls. A mixture of races and ethnicities. A group where they switch instruments frequently. The dizzying sugar rush of a journey that they take you on makes you think that if they were the world’s band (sort of like how states have mascots, state birds, etc.), they could demolish racism; they could end the Iraq war! They make you feel like anything is possible when you come together to work and have pure fun.

    The audience tried to keep up with Ninja; hell, we tried to keep up with the band, each of them having a rather heavy instrument strapped to their shoulders. I’ve never seen a Chicago audience dance so hard. We met an older fellow after the show who looked like he may go into cardiac arrest at any moment, but it had been worth it because he proclaimed The Go! Team to be better than the Beatles!

    My favorite song is, without a doubt, “Bottle Rocket.” It’s boisterous and boastful and bristles with ferocity. After the band ended their main set, they came back on to do two more songs before slowly leaving the stage to the audience’s grabbing hands, proclaiming that it was going to be difficult to follow this show up, and I must agree. It was the opening night of their American tour and we got them first.
  • The Lucksmiths (and a bit of the Brunettes), Wednesday, September 26, 2007, Chicago,…

    27 sept. 2007, 22h34m

    Wed 26 Sep – The Brunettes, The Lucksmiths, Ferraby Lionheart

    I keep the Lucksmiths close to my heart as they are one of my favorite bands of all time. Their eloquence, their heartbreaking words, their chiming, jangly guitar, their smiles, their jokes, and that voice – Tali’s – all make for an unmatched combination of absolute brilliance in a band. It is with that high opinion that I learned the Lucksmiths were tagged on (and at quite a late date) to a 3-band bill. They would play first, then someone called Ferraby Lionheart, and then The Brunettes. The Brunettes are their Antipodean mates, and they play pop-esque music (maybe) and are new and attractive so they added the Lucksmiths to their bill. To the bottom of the bill. I was upset about this, but few other bands can make me grin and feel such unbridled joy as the Lucksmiths can, so I arrived to the venue well in advance of the start time.

    The band started a few minutes prior to the advertised 9pm start time as they knew they had strictly a half hour to play, and they wanted us to tell our friends who actually showed up on time that they were, in fact, late! See, this is the thing about the Lucksmiths. They are the most good-natured, humorous, hilarious, and open people. They not only play gorgeous songs, they like to have chats with the audience in between songs. By only having a half hour to play, these chats were noticeably lesser, and the band acknowledged as much.

    But they opened up with the best song to start a gig, as well as an album (which they have!), "A Hiccup In Your Happiness.” Tali sighs, “The start, is the hardest part,” and you’re immediately in love. The Lucksmiths are fantastic on record but live they are amazing. After seeing them numerous times, I am always amazed at Tali’s supreme cardio fitness. He’s got such a soothing voice with choral-teacher-approved vibrato, yet he strongly plays a hefty set of drums while standing up. Marty’s guitar playing always sounds so assured, especially now with the fairly recent addition of Louis on second guitar. Plus, I am a jangle addict. Mark’s bass is really crisp and funky (Is that the right term? It fits in well with the music and makes you want to jump up and down.).

    They played "Great Lengths” and the perfectly worded “Sunlight In a Jar.” Who hasn’t fallen for someone so beautifully complicated and been at a loss for words to tell them how you feel about them? Their second-to-last song was their hit “T-shirt Weather” which they still perform with high enthusiasm. After that, I assumed they would play my favorite song “The Chapter In You Life Entitled San Francisco” (because I can’t wait to have a chapter like that of my own) to finish their too-short set. But no! No! I believe they ended with “Midweek Midmorning.” That’s ok, but it just left everyone wanting more. So much more.

    The venue wasn’t packed, but the people there were surprisingly enthusiastic. There wasn’t really anyone to twirl around with, but after every song, people clapped incredibly loudly and yelled and shouted. It was clear most people were here to see the Lucksmiths. So when they had to exit the stage at 9:30 on the dot, we all screamed for one more song. I almost thought we’d convinced them, the venue, everyone to let them carry on, but it was not to be. Alas.

    It was like a steamy make-out session with someone you’re really keen on. You know you want to take it to the next level, but for whatever reason, you just stop. That’s what it felt like to have the Lucksmiths play such a fabulous show, and then abruptly stop to make way for a quiet singer-songwriter whom nobody’s ever heard of. It didn’t feel right, and it was almost laughable.

    But being almost stereotypically friendly and gregarious Australians, the Lucksmiths took it all in stride and thanked the Brunettes for ‘letting’ them on the bill! I left the room after their set but came back in for the Brunettes. I stayed for three songs. The first one sounded like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the second one was a 60s-style soul stomper (which I loved, and was the only song of theirs to stand out on their MySpace), and the third one sounded like Wilco. I’m not really a fan of disparate genre-hopping and it was silly to try and follow the Lucksmiths sparkly heartwarming pop, so I left to cycle home through the autumn air.